By Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya
UNLESS something really dramatic happens between now and then, I can confidently say the United States’ presidential election will be held on November 3 in the year 2037. That’s more than 20 years away.
Now, if someone were to ask me, conversely, when our general elections will take place I would have to shrug my shoulders, ‘suck my teeth,’ and say ‘Boy, I’ne know’ even though I can guess that we are less than two months away.
If that reality doesn’t open your eyes to the sad state of our democracy, probably nothing will.
In 2017, our ability to exercise our democratic right to elect representatives still hinges on the whim of that one person we call ‘Prime Minister’. Now, granted, there are other electoral systems around the world where the date is not fixed but could there be another truly democratic system where just naming the date is as abused as it is here?
I doubt it.
Just as I doubt that Perry Christie doesn’t already know the day we will all have to go to the polls. Still, for some reason, he is holding onto this ‘secret’ like a wife with an outside child. Is he afraid his party will lose? Probably. Should he be afraid? Definitely.
Still, no matter how much our Prime Minister ignores chimes to ‘ring da bell’ and tries to minimise his ‘lame duck’ standing (which, some can argue, started in earnest after his first failed referendum in 2013) the five tell-tale signs are everywhere that elections are drawing near.
1 Politicians are everywhere
Gone are the days when Bahamians only hid behind their curtains to ‘duck’ Jehovah’s Witnesses coming up to the porch. Now, every time you turn around MPs (and wannabe MPs) are at your doorstep looking for votes. Some come bearing pamphlets and manifestos. Some come bearing T-shirts (hint, hint). And some come bearing smiles with more teeth than a comb.
If you haven’t seen your member of Parliament once in the last five years, have no fear because that person (and their supporters) will be in your face more than your reflection in the next few months. You know elections are near when politicians are ‘on the road like ants’.
So far, I have managed to miss Alfred Sears, Mark Humes and whomever else is running in Fort Charlotte. For the past few weeks they have been ‘canvassing’ my area. But the increased frequency of ‘sorry we missed you’ door hangers left behind tells me my luck may be running out.
I think it’s time to get darker curtains.
2 Politicians are talking their heads off
All of a sudden, politicians are willing to go anywhere someone will listen to them. They are all too happy to give radio and newspaper interviews. I’ve seen a few ‘uppity’ politicians subject themselves to questions they used to blow off in the past. Some have tried mini-debates on television. Some are even the right amount of desperate to engage voters in long back-and-forths on Facebook.
You know that elections are near when you see party officials and candidates willing to give a speech at a bar during Happy Hour if more than two people are present.
If 2012 taught us anything, it’s that every single vote counts. So good luck enjoying that Kalik in peace if a politician is nearby.
3 Candidates are dropping like flies
Now that we are in the home sprint (even though we have no idea yet where the finish line is), shaky candidates are being knocked off their perches.
Whether they decide to drop out due to ‘family commitments’, are dumped by their party at the last minute or get primaried and lose (I’m looking at you, Frank Smith), now is the time for all wannabe MPs to fish or cut bait.
So far, we have seen quite a few ‘hopefuls’ tossed by the wayside. The recent loss of Free National Movement (FNM) candidate Kenyatta Gibson and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) expectant Frank Smith tells me the parties know it’s gut check time.
The flip side of this is the increasing rate at which ‘randoms’ are being added to political rosters. But hey, I get it. Every major party wants to field 39 candidates to be taken seriously. And if that means running Joe No-Name in some Family Island so be it. Everyone knows the race is to 20 anyway.
4 It’s fight night in the streets
Most candidates travel with an entourage of supporters now. In years gone by, it was understood that at any given time as election day nears, you could expect to see small armies in red, yellow or (more recently) green coming down the road.
Rabid supporters are not as understanding as they used to be.
Nowadays we need only check Whatsapp or Facebook to see these ‘armies’ engaged in verbal warfare.
Only this week, a viral video showing FNM and PLP supporters going at each other as each group attempted to make their way through Carmichael. Some people blamed FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis for ‘starting’ the confrontation while other blamed PLP Minister Michael Halkitis and his ‘jungalists’ for taunting the FNMs.
Either way, this is a sure sign that elections are near and you can expect to see more of this in the coming weeks. Truth be told, the only way to get a handle on this is by setting an election date so that the big rallies can begin. Because who are we kidding? Nothing cools Bahamians’ election fever like free cold drinks, food and music.
5 Bills, Bills, Bills
Last (but certainly not least) a telltale sign of elections being near is the governing party’s breakneck pace to sneak in new legislation.
Just this week we have seen a Labour Bill. Right before that it was a Spy Bill. And right before that it was a FOIA bill.
Whether it’s to curry favour with voters or fool them into thinking parliamentarians (aka incumbents) are actually working, you can tell elections are near when MPs are actually trying to look busy at work for the people. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.
So far, the Freedom of Information Bill has been criticised for being ‘too weak’, the Spy Bill is DOA because the government seems ‘too nosey’ and the Labour Bill is being attacked for being ‘too painful’ for employers. By my count, that’s three potential ‘Ls’ for the PLP.
At this rate, the best thing for Mr Christie to do is ‘ring da bell’. As much as he may dread it, his administration’s day of reckoning must come.
• Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya is the resident stand-up comic at Jokers Wild Comedy Club at the Atlantis, Paradise Island, resort and presents ‘Mischief and Mayhem in da AM’ from 6am to 10am, Monday to Friday, and ‘The Press Box’ sports talk show on Sunday from 10am to 1pm on KISS FM 96.1. He also writes a sports column in The Tribune on Tuesday. Comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org